On Oct.18, International Programs (IP) announced that the Harding University Australasia (HUA) spring 2021 program would be postponed until fall 2021. This was the second postponement of the program since the fall 2020 program had to be rescheduled. On Monday, Oct. 26, IP announced to students that the spring 2021 Greece (HUG), Italy (HUF) and Peru (HULA) programs would also be canceled.
Peru remains under a Level 4 U.S. State Department Travel Advisory, and the European Union also remains closed to citizens of the United States, with no clear timeline in place for when the advisories will be lifted.
Italy has advocated for the return of United States university students, but a new suspension on group educational touring was recently imposed due to rising COVID-19 numbers across Italy. Audra Pleasant, executive director of IP, said the suspension would limit both the number of activities available to HUF students and the quality of the HUF experience as a whole.
Pam Little, the director of HUA, said she has been using this time to rework the HUA program to make it the best and safest experience possible. Little said she is eager to show future students how unique and beautiful God’s world is.
The directors of HUF, HUG and HULA each sent a video expressing their shared disappointment with the students with whom they would have spent the spring semester.
“There’s just something about studying abroad that works on you,” HULA program director Jeremy Daggett said. “As you ask questions about the world, as you see different cultures and travel throughout the world. If there’s any way that you can make it work –– even if it’s not HULA –– I would love for you to do that.”
Pleasant expressed her disappointment to the students as well, and offered support in making changes to plans for the upcoming year. Pleasant said she is hopeful that students will be able to study abroad by fall 2021.
“We are using this time to strengthen those connections and continue to prepare and plan every day and pray that study abroad will be possible again,” Pleasant said. “We haven’t stopped preparing for study abroad; we just haven’t quite figured out the exact moment that it will become possible for students to be traveling again.”
Although disappointed, sophomore Parker Acri, who was planning to attend HUF, said he understood the program’s suspension.
“At the beginning of the semester, I had hope that somehow the virus would calm down and allow things to return to normal,” Acri said. “I think as soon as October hit and there were spikes, I figured it was going to get canceled.”
Daggett said that, although their plans had to change, he is hopeful that good may still come.
“These are still very, very uncertain times that we’re living in,” Daggett said. “And my hope for you, my desire for you –– for all of us –– is that you can hang onto something during this time. Find something that’s bigger than you are to hang onto as we continue to move forward, continue to get better together.”